Obama: Unfairly Bashing Video Games?

Some commenters have noted President Obama’s game-bashing comments in his recent speeches. Whether he’s telling the nation’s school children to put down the controller and read a book, or chiding parents to turn off the console and get the kids in bed earlier, Obama points to indulgence in video games as a serious problem among the nation’s kids.

Don’t video games get enough unwarranted blame already? Should Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo be held responsible for a few kids’ abysmal test scores? There are plenty of activities that kids do instead of homework: playing outside, sports, Barbies and GI Joes, cartoons, garage bands, or skateboarding, to name a few. Should we incite moral panic over SpongeBob Squarepants, or the YMCA and its skate parks?

Even if some kids do spend a lot of time gaming, the quality and variety of the games they play has come a long way. When I was a young gamer, most console games fell into four categories: pro sports, adventure, racing, or violent shooting sprees. Very few “7th Guest” -type of games were around that could give a young brain a tough work-out. Today, kids have many more choices, including many educational options. In fact, now that the technology is sufficiently advanced, many video games can double as exercise (Dance Dance Revolution, Sony’s EyeToy games, the Wii Fit, etc.). Citizen Gamer columnist Wenda Benedetti remarks that not all games are a bane to education:

“Meanwhile in the here and now, there a plethora of “edutainment” games out there — games that use today’s technology to stuff our children’s head full of smarts. But if those kinds of titles tend to inspire jaded eye-rolls from savvy young game enthusiasts, you don’t have to look far to find mainstream video games that encourage players to boot their brains into high gear. Though they may seem like frivolous fun, these games could qualify as some seriously studious homework.”

Certainly, parents should ensure their children attend to their school work, and they should limit the amount of time their kids spend on potentially-unhealthy activities. However, concern over video games should be kept in perspective. Since its infancy, the video game industry has taken flack for making kids (and adults) lazy, unsociable, overweight, or just plain stupid. But consider this: the first generation of gamers has reached adulthood, and our country isn’t exactly falling by the wayside. The generation that grew up with Mario, Link, and Sonic went on to graduate from college in large numbers with computer and electronic engineering degrees. Those kids grew up to help build the new economy and the high-tech, connected society that we live in today.